Last year I almost visited Hiroshima. I had completed a conference in Kyoto and had a choice of going to Tokyo (especially Akihabara district), or taking a day trip out to Hiroshima. The two are at opposite ends of the island, with Kyoto in the middle, so there was no way to combine both.

I chose Tokyo. Partly out of geekdom - after all, Akihabara is the Mecca of technology. But also partly out of a sense of cowardice. I can't really label it any other thing, because I firmly believe that dropping the bomb on Japan was the right decision, but I also firmly believe that the right decision is not always the moral one. Targeting innocents for death is immoral, period, and no theory of just war can offer a rhetorical escape or loophole. None.

So, I support an immoral action in history. I accept responsibility as an American for the actions of my nation and unlike other atrocities by my nation (such as Dresden, at the macrolevel, or Abu Ghraib at the microlevel) or my co-religionists (such as 9-11 or attacks upon Israeli children) the bombing of Hiroshima was done in my name. I bear responsibility for it in a way that I do not for the other things. I owe an apology to any survivor of Hiroshima, or the families of the victims, because of my nationality and my allegiance and my belief that it was the right course of action.

So, simply put, I didn't want to go face that responsibility, and decided instead to gallivant around in geek heaven.

Why do I think the Hiroshima bombing was right? Via Dean, here's a post from the neo-neocon blog that pretty much sumarizes the basic argument (which I have heard before) of why a "demonstratory" strike on an unsettled area of Japan would not have ended the war. The argument hinges on the facts 1. that we only had two bombs, 2. we were not 100% sure they would both work (let alone one), and 3. that the Japanese leadership were not frightened by death. And here's what really seals the deal in my mind:

In May 1945, four distinguished physicists who served as advisers to the interim committee met in Los Alamos to consider the proposed "demonstration" theories. They were Arthur H. Compton, Enrico Fermi, Ernest Lawrence and Robert Oppenheimer. After the meeting they concluded: "We can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war; we see no acceptable alternative to direct military use."

1 comment:

Richard Gadsden said...

I'm British; my nation helped the Manhattan Project; I support the decision to bomb Hiroshima. I agree with you that it was immoral and right.

I too bear that same burden of apology. Interesting; tough.